A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Standard underdog sports movie "triumph over adversity" messages.
Positive Role Models
Lead character is an Iranian American. The movie is set in 1981, and the reason he has gotten into the underground fighting circuit is so he can make enough money to get his mother out of Tehran.
Violence & Scariness
A man is taken out of an airplane by terrorists and shot and killed in the head at point-blank range. MMA-style fighting violence throughout. Fighting with punches, kicks, headbutts, wrestling moves. Characters beaten until bloodied and knocked unconscious. Lead character's best friend, also on the underground fighting circuit, is severely beaten and ends up hospitalized. Lead character breaks into a truck and steals a rifle and threatens to shoot the man who conned him into getting into a fight he had no way of winning, but is stopped by another character who puts the end of the rifle to his forehead and tells the lead character to pull the trigger (he doesn't). Talk about a fatal drunk driving accident.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
College women in a convertible raise their shirts to flash the guys (shown from the back, no nudity). Joke about small penises. Kissing.
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At his first practice in college on the wrestling team, lead character, during a practice match, is called a whole slew of racist slurs referencing his Persian ethnicity, including "sand ‘N” word." Also: "a--hole," "bulls--t," "s--t," "p---y," "bastard," "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One of the main characters is an alcoholic, often shown with a bottle, drunk, or passed out. Lead character gets severely drunk, is shown hungover later. Whiskey drinking. Beer drinking. Cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that American Fighter is a 2019 action movie in which a young Iranian American in 1981 enters the world of underground fighting in order to rescue his dying mother from Iran. A rival wrestler calls lead character Ali every racist Arab slur in the book, including "sand ‘N' word." A man is shot and killed at point-blank range outside of an airplane by terrorists. In a later scene, the lead character steals a rifle out of truck by smashing out the window, then goes to find the person he wants to kill, but is stopped by another character who puts the rifle to his forehead and tells Ali to pull the trigger. Overall, you can expect a lot of MMA-style fighting -- with punches, kicks, wrestling, and lots of blood and bruising. Lead character shown getting drunk on whiskey, drunk back in his dorm room, then hungover the next day. One of the secondary characters is an alcoholic, shown drinking out of flasks, and being drunk throughout. Talk of a drunk driving accident. Profanity often used, including "a--hole," "bulls--t," "s--t," "p---y," "bastard," "hell." Cigarette smoking. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The cheesy action movie cliches don't quite prevent this from being an enjoyable action movie. American Fighter is the story of a young Iranian American named Ali in 1981 who enters the world of underground fighting in order to rescue his dying mother from Iran. This central story creates enough sympathy and willingness to root for Ali that it overcomes the movie's lesser qualities. Among these lesser qualities are character types we've seen so many times before, such as the unscrupulous promoter, and the seemingly washed-up drunk fighter who still has a gift for teaching younger fighters, no matter how much the booze and the beatings have taken their toll on his brain and body. There are also the expected montage scenes of Ali kicking butt before his own butt gets kicked, and the "comeback trail" montage with Ali training hard and learning new ways to fight that were previously outside of his wheelhouse.
But this kind of cheese is to be expected in movies such as these, and Tommy Flanagan brings the expected Scottish panache (read: a brogue and whiskey) to the role of McClellen, the unscrupulous promoter, and Sean Patrick Flanery holds his own as the washed-up drunken trainer. As Ali, George Kosturos has just enough acting ability to balance the emotional range of what's at stake for this character as he both tries to rescue his mother and date a nice girl in college. This movie isn't going to win any awards, but for an action movie with "scrappy underdog"/comeback kid" elements, it's pretty good.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.